Help Change the NYS Labor Law That Causes Big Problems for Building Owners & Contractors

October 1, 2014

insurance building owners contractors

Image courtesy of StuartMiles/

With Nano Tech coming to the Utica area, we thought it would be a good time to update our construction clients and building owners on New York’s Labor Laws 200, 241(6) and 240(1). They are commonly called the “Safe Place to Work Law” and the “Scaffolding Law.” These laws have been on the books since 1885 and they focus on employee safety on a construction site.

That would seem like a good thing, the construction industry is hazardous and all of us benefit from the dedication of our construction workers. The problem is that the law places liability on the building owner or contractor for any type of fall at any height. That means a worker can fall off a short ladder and sue the owner/contractor or have a small object land on him or her and sue.

But you might be thinking, what about Workers Compensation Insurance? Don’t you purchase that for employee injuries? And doesn’t a Workers Compensation policy carried by an employer preclude the employee suing him/her for negligence?

This is where the law literally adds insult to injury. After an incident, a worker can collect Workers Compensation PLUS sue the contractor or building owner for negligence on top of the Workers Comp claim.

How does this affect your insurance? As any general contractor will tell you, it’s in the pricing and availability of General Liability Insurance. Here’s what the June 2013 issue of Property Casualty 360’s article on the subject says, “The construction industry may not make a major comeback any time soon in New York State, where labor laws as applied to the construction insurance business are doubling rates and driving carriers away…”

Interestingly enough, pricing for the World Trade Center project starting in 2009 was better than it is today. According to Chris Smith, VP and Managing Director for Turner Surety & Insurance Brokerage, “Insuring the Freedom Tower four years ago was doable: pricing now would be enormous, and you would have to take some serious self-insurance on it. And that would be a challenge. “

Here’s the statement of action needed by the Independent Agents & Brokers of New York, which Gary Scalzo, Steve Zogby, and our entire Commercial Lines Departments support:

“IIABNY will support legislation to repeal or replace Section 240(1) with a more reasonable standard similar to that found in Section 241(6) of the Labor Law which imposes liability on contractors and owners for failing to provide a safe place to work. It is imperative that a reasonable negligence standard be established and that a realistic definition of a ‘fall for a height’ is established.”

These antiquated laws are causing increasing expense within a severely restricted insurance marketplace. Construction projects are not happening costing New Yorkers jobs. The state is struggling to break out of the worst recession since the Great Depression and a law that drives up the cost of doing business in New York must be changed.

Gary and Steve urge you, especially if you’re a building owner or in the construction industry, to contact your state representatives to change this law.

For more info, we found this comprehensive review of the New York State Labor Law. As always, call us with any questions or to talk about all of this further.

Until next time,

Your SZW Team

Scalzo, Zogby & Wittig, Inc. is your New Hartford area independent insurance agency. Call us for a quote on insurance for your home, car, business, or life at 315.792.0000. You’ll be glad you did.